How the climate crisis was brought about in a single lifetime

(Climate and Generation, Lecture #1, deep dive)

(Note that the below observations and questions were taken from the YouTube comments for the above short video lecture. They have not been paraphrased or altered, though often just part of the comment is reproduced here.)

I find it ironic that in the pledge of allegiance we end it by saying “with liberty and justice for all” while he have committed such an injustice and built our nation upon it. When I heard that only 4% of the earth’s population (us) has contributed such a vast amount of carbon emissions while the poorest 3 billion have contributed only 5% I was disgusted. How can we claim to provide justice for “all” while we only benefit ourselves in our carbon rich lifestyle?…

I found it interesting that you mentions cigarette smoking in this video. While it was used in a great analogy, it also made me think about how not too long ago smoking was very very popular. Virtually everyone smoked until the negative consequences were widely publicized and packages were labeled to warn of the carcinogens in cigarettes. I feel like the climate crisis will continue to get worse until it’s consequences are widely publicized. Could you imagine if gas stations had labels on their pumps that read “Warning: This product produces harmful gases that can lead to the death of our planet”? I feel that people will not understand the danger until it is staring them right in the face. I agree with Ken’s commentary on the delayed responses of our people.

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I agree with what you said…Just like you pointed out, the irony of our self-proclaimed “hero” of the world and justice is that we are also the villains. The US, along with other developed countries, has been proven to be the most destructive and selfish nation.

The United States is ignorant of their carbon footprint and even though we are more conscious than China.

It is true that the consumptive lifestyle and fossil fuel burning of industrial societies has contributed to climate change. However, with these actions came economic progress and improved quality of life. I think it is a bit naive to simply attack the past generation for their actions/inaction on climate. Would you rather be a college student in America or a poor rice farmer in India?

[On a similar note, someone else wrote the following:]

About the last part where professor apologized …I think there is no need for the last generation to apologize for anything. I believe there is a trade off between all things…For example, because of the great emission of CO2, it accelerated the development of technology and the productivity of goods. Therefore this has provided our generation a better and more convenient life than the lives they had before.

[Russian President Vladimir Putin recently suggested something similar about Greta Thunberg, implying that she is simply naive: “No one has explained to Greta that the modern world is complex and different and … people in Africa or in many Asian countries want to live at the same wealth level as in Sweden.”]

This video rightly states that the major reason as to why the planet is in its current condition is that there is a delay between the time the pollution starts and the time the effects of the pollution become clear.

Ken, if you are reading this, thank you for teaching us the mistakes of your past and showing us that we don’t have to repeat them.

ok boomer

I’m only partially joking. The thing I started feeling about halfway through the video was annoyance – yes, yes, the carbon dioxide ppm exploded over the period from the 1950s to 2020, yes, yes, it was over your lifetime, yes, yes, your generation of Americans kinda sucks, so did most of the intermediary generations of Americans, so do we, probably.

Cool. Fine. Thanks for telling us. Really opened our eyes with that one.

All the apologies and self-flagellation and public confessionals, however, don’t actually change what we as a species must accomplish. After a certain point, to me at least, it started to get a little grating – yes, I understand that you feel bad that your generation wrecked the environment, glad you realized it, now please help us fix it instead of making long-winded apologies.

the fact that a mere 1/8 of the GLOBAL population is responsible for 2/3 of the greenhouse gas emissions is a terrifying statistic. This 1/8 is composed of some of the most wealthy and developed countries, and yet they are creating an issue that harms themselves and the remaining 7/8 of the world. It seems quite clear that these regions — the US, Russia and Europe — need to admit to the damage they are causing and begin to create concrete and efficient solutions to their damage.

The climate crisis seems so far away and intangible, yet it’s our generation and our children’s future that will face the consequences. It seems so unreal because we don’t really feel the full brunt of the crisis yet, and as Ken said, the consequences are delayed so we feel less of a sense of urgency and prioritization. The example of smoking that was mentioned in the video was very effective in visualizing the effects of delayed consequences and the guilt we would feel about leaving our children and our children’s children to suffer.

Unfortunately Prof. Ken’s generation will be remembered as ignorant, destructive, and self-serving. This is a sad reality. Just as we view world wars, discrimination against different groups and races and genders of peoples, and other phenomena of previous generations as “barbaric” and “unacceptable” so will the next generations view the one that brought about and failed to actively address (on time) the climate crisis…

On the other hand, I think my generation is oscillating between being the heroes or continuing the work of the villains. Now more than ever no one can plead ignorance to the crisis. People educated themselves and try to make meaningful impact in any way they can. We have a chance to be the good guys, the heroes, the generation that future generations will look at as the “saviors” of the world. My optimistic side thinks that this may very well be a possibility, we have no other option anyway. My pessimistic side though is not so sure…

[But were we “ignorant”? Check out this film snippet from 1958 and what President Johnson knew in 1965]

I believe that many older generations are deaf to the topic of the climate crisis, because they feel attacked and blamed by younger people. Obviously, no one would appreciate this, and it is my hope that through open talks and education, older generations will decide to alter their lifestyles. No matter how small the contribution, at least it is a step forward in a progressive direction.

I love that Hiltner uses the analogy of cigarette smoking in trying to portray the reality of carbon pollution and climate change. Not only is it accurate, it is especially significant because of how connected the tobacco industry is to climate denial and inaction. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway discuss this connection in their book Merchants of Doubt. They talk about how the same group of scientists, corporations, institutions, and lobbyists that denied the harmful health impacts of cigarette smoking spearheaded the efforts to challenge climate science.

[Continuing with the analogy of cigarette smoking, it does raise the question of just who got us hooked on those cigarettes/fossil fuels in the first place, how they are profiting, and how they are denying that there is a problem even though they know that it is killing us/the planet.]

The Global North is currently still solely attempting to profit from exploitation of not only the health of our planet but also the health of the Global South.

I do also want to bring up another point that came to me while watching Ken’s lectures. Old habits die hard, which is extremely frustrating for individuals/generations who demand for change of these terrible habits we have so deeply integrated into life…How do we change the way these older generations have been thinking for decades in an effectively manner?

As I watched this video, possibly my biggest realization was with regards to the fact that the generational divide of climate change is not just a situational divide of understanding, but one that stems from a relationship with the consequences of climate change. Those in my family who worked in industries that led to pollution most likely knew that what they were doing was wrong, but they had no sense of consequences nor of the scale of climate change: looking at PPM on a graph is very different from going home for the holidays and learned that it hasn’t snowed yet.

The issue of climate change has been ignored for hundreds of years, Ken’s generation wasn’t the only one that added to the problem. This issue came about when the idea that any corporation or company can burn as much fossil fuel as they want without being sanctioned or punished for adverse effects on the environment. It’s the mindset or the culture of big, rich, powerful first-world countries to justify destroying the world in order to increase their country’s wealth. This to me is unacceptable.

The fact that of 1/8 of the world creating such a massive issue for the 7/8 of the world who barely contributed to the issue is absurd and I think will be a major reality check to many people- it definitely was for me. As we saw in “Before the Flood,” most of the consequences of the climate crisis are hitting the poorer, underdeveloped areas of the world first- people that have no access to electricity, heat, gas, cars, etc. to nearly the degree that we do. Many of them farm for sustenance, and the abnormal weather, flooding and extreme heat that the climate crisis brings is ruining their chances of survival and success. It’s completely unjust, and I’m eager to learn about more ways to combat this issue.

We have known about the harmful effects of using fossil fuels and the impact on the atmosphere that arises as a result of greenhouse gases prior to 1959, in fact in the late 19th century, it was already being theorized that the harmful greenhouse gases could lead to the destruction of the atmosphere.


I did not know that our recognition of the damage of burning fossil fuels dated to as far as the 19th century, and that is a very interesting fact! Still, I would argue that the scientific consensus did not converge till much later, and mostly during Prof. Ken’s lifetime, which also coincides with the time of the most notable and radical increase in [CO2] PPM.

the real problem always lies in material conditions…A fetishization of infinite-growth economies, massive consumerism, capitalism as a whole; how can we say it’s simply old people’s fault when they’ve been primed for this since long before they were born? Can we really pretend that our generation would have been any different had we been born at the same time they were? Is it really that surprising that people didn’t believe in climate change when it had not yet physically manifested and they had every material incentive to pretend it didn’t exist?

I really enjoyed the representation he used that portrayed the time delay between action and the effect. I believe that past generations struggled with the idea that current actions may not immediately have an impact, but down the line can be catastrophic. I think the analogy with the cigarette pack was super good. I wish older generations could watch that part, as I do not believe most people have the understanding of the impactions of their actions. It was a severe analogy, but necessary for a severe situation.

A point at the end of this lecture that I found specifically interesting was that not only has the generation before me create most of the current climate crisis, they have also failed to train our generation on how to live sustainably and let us fall into the same bad habits that their generation followed that led to abusing the environment. While I think that my generation does need to take responsibility for our own actions and how they’ve affected the climate, this point really made me realize how much more productive my generation could be if we understood more of how to protect the environment and the climate and how to live more sustainably

Climate and Generation, Lectures #2-5, deep dive

(Note that the below observations and questions were taken from the YouTube comments for the above short video lecture. They have not been paraphrased or altered, though often just part of the comment is reproduced here.)

My immediate response to what I can do to lower my carbon footprint is exactly what Ken laid out: that’s it? I’m already doing all of that! And I know many others are going to experience the same thing, so I’m going to take the liberty to draw out some extra steps you can take…

So, you want more than 2 kids? Adopt. Adopt! There are so many children right now who need a home, and you want another kid, what a perfect match! This adds nothing to the carbon footprint of the human race and makes sure a child grows up with a family. There is literally no downside to this.

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Just seeing where and how to make these choices is so helpful and can often give you a new idea you hadn’t thought of! I have a few add ons:

I highly recommend the GHGP garden plots by Harder stadium (they’re just $40 a year and you can split one with your friends!) and trying to grow your own food. I’ve also seen some amazing gardening achievements on Isla Vista balconies.

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I totally agree with the suggestions that you put out there. I also think it’s great that many of these things have become “trendy,” so to speak: vegan diets and thrift shopping are almost undoubtedly seen as “cool” things to adopt now. Though some argue that these things should be done as a form of activism and not as a trend, I think it’s great that these things are becoming mainstream because even if people aren’t making these changes for environmental reasons, they’re still making the changes and that’s what matters.

After watching “Can one generation do what previous generations failed to do?”, I began to feel hopeful. The first few lecture videos and documentaries that we had to watch made me feel like we were doomed. The way that Ken talked about the 5 ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint were very simple and seemed like they are very accessible to all people. Although it might not be tomorrow when enough people start doing these 5 things to make a big difference, it is certainly something that could happen within the next 5 years.

The fact that the production of 30 pounds of lentils is the same as producing 1 pound of meat is mind blowing. If everyone just chose one day of the week to not eat meat it would have a significant positive effect.

Many, especially those of older generations, attribute the larger houses, car culture, and consumerism to “increased quality of life”. While this may be partially true…larger homes and larger families, are not actually contributing to our happiness, and that this excess in fact reduces our quality of life on a more fundamental level…the more stuff you can put in there. By stuff, I mean consumer goods. The stresses on the environment necessarily increase with larger houses, since there is more space to heat or cool, more lights, more electricity use in general…

This excess also provides Americans with the opportunity to engage in the commute. After all, space for 4000+ sq. ft. houses is only in the suburbs. Commuting is a truly soul-crushing, body-destroying 20th century invention…This also contributes to the dangers of car culture and the effect that is has on our mood. It has been shown that getting into a vehicle inclines us to become more angry and less empathetic. What else would happen when a person is placed in a multi-ton, high speed metal cage?

What’s most heartbreaking to me is how selfish we are as a country. The poorest countries who would much rather have our lifestyle have done nothing to contribute to this climate crisis, yet, they are the ones who will suffer the most. This doesn’t surprise me. Ken is right. Most of the elected officials in congress are part of the generation that has contributed the most to climate change. They are used to living this selfish, carefree lifestyle and benefiting from the fossil fuel industries.

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[O]ne of the statements which really caught my attention was when you spoke about how older people in politics are “used to living this selfish, carefree lifestyle and benefiting from the fossil fuel industries”. This was so eye catching to me because I often wonder why people in politics tend to ignore the warnings of climate scientists and have so little care for the environment, would it really be so terrible to do something that helps our planet for once? Then I realize, as you stated, that most of these politicians are just in it for the money, and that the money is coming from the fossil fuel industry.

One of the activist strategies that Ken touched on that struck me the most was the child to parent intergenerational education and connection. While watching this video and reflecting on my family, I can say that talking with my parents about the climate crisis has proven to be a successful strategy.

In the fall quarter of my freshman year of college, I decided to go vegan because of the environmental impacts animal agriculture has on the planet (Thanks Eng 22). When I told my parents, who are both vegetarian, they were both skeptics, but supportive. More than a year later my parents incorporate vegan meals more often in their life and often come to me with questions about ways to cut down the waste they are creating. Watching them grow into more conscious consumers has been a fun experience and has helped me improve my communication skills.

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Unfortunately, I can see how this strategy may not be effective in certain situations. In my case, my mom had very little opinion on climate change before, so she is not likely to oppose my opinions. However, I know many people of the older generations do have opinions, many of them being climate change deniers, so I would assume their child would have a harder time getting them to start caring about their carbon footprint…Even with that said and knowing this strategy may not work for every family, it can’t hurt to try. Expressing opinions and civilly debating can only benefit and educate both people involved, and it might even help mitigate the climate crisis.

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As much as I love the concept of intergenerational education, I have to admit that I have tried so hard to win my parents over to being more environmentally conscious. However, it has not worked at all. In my situation, both my parents subscribe to the notion that climate change is a hoax and a political movement against the driving forces of our economy. When I try to advocate for sustainability, I am met with resistance and the declaration that I know nothing because I am “an idealist in college”. Instead of opening up a discussion, my parents tell me with certainty that my views will change when I get to the real world.

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I also agree that child to parent learning is so crucial and impact…But I know that from the small town I grew up in a large percent of the students in my grade did not believe in climate change because their parents said it was not real. This is showing the double ended sword of child to parent learning so that is why it is important for of the youth to get educated so the elder can not persuade our information.

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I loved reading about your personal experience! I think that it’s easier for all of us to make a change when we do it together. For me personally it was easier to stick to lifestyle changes by having a good support system surrounding me.

“If not acted upon, knowledge is power squandered.”…At the end of the day, the difference in whether our society generally makes the lifestyle changes necessary to curb climate change comes down to motivation. As Ken discussed in the lecture, plenty of people in the generations preceding us knew at some level that major changes were necessary. Despite that knowledge, people at varying levels of power in other forms (industry, politics, etc.) failed to act upon that knowledge in an appropriate manner. To make matters worse, even now many of those people are unwilling to relinquish the “freedoms” that come with making unsustainable lifestyle choices.

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I agree with you…We cannot repeat history and acknowledge climate change, while not making a difference. Our knowledge is only powerful if we act on it. I agree with Ken that this is a generational issue, which gives me hope that we will become inspired to act. We must vote politicians into office who believe in climate change and are committed to new policies. My parents often say the same excuses Ken stated about climate change, which means our generation must push back. As my generation begins to lead the way, we cannot fall into the trap of luxury and constant innovation. We must remember that the freedom to have luxuries comes at a cost.

Good points, I agree with the fact that we can’t change the past. “If not acted upon, knowledge is power squandered” has to be one of my new favorite quotes because it goes against the highly used saying of “knowledge is power.” Yes, you may know certain things like what it takes to stop climate change. But it’s not enough to just recite that knowledge somewhere else or just keep it in your mind for only you to know.

Regarding having fewer kids, I find it is an appealing solution to the increasing population issue but it is way more complexed than it looks. People from the world have different ideas about having children which may due to cultural and social reasons. Some cultures prefer boys to girls and hence people insist on giving birth until they have a boy. It will be useless and unconvincing to tell them to have fewer kids because of some climate crisis that simply just weighs less than a boy in their traditions. There have to be policies. But it will also be too compelling to have one of those and too difficult to carry out.

The American Dream is often thought of as if you work hard, then you will be successful and rich and be happy in life. But how can you show anyone that you are rich or successful without having huge mansions, expensive cars, and steak dinner every night? I think that this is an ideal that most Baby Boomers had, and to an extent, are judging and raising our generation to the same standards. Somewhere along the line of our human lineage, we have made success and consumerism go hand in hand, and thus often our goals in life are to buy stuff and show our wealth. We can’t live in a tiny apartment or bike because that would hurt our ego, showing to the world that we might be poor or something. It’s what we were raised upon by our parents, who expect us to live a good, successful, and comfortable life. Yeah, in the back of our heads we may know the dire consequences of our materialistic lifestyles, but who cares because we worked hard for it, and so we deserve it. I think it is gonna take a long while to change the definition of success, but until we do, our planet will forever be in danger.

Something very powerful that Ken said in this video was that “the generation currently controlling our planet has been settling into a way of life—for decades— that is an environmental nightmare.” He then followed with “what’s more, my generation likes it.” I realized that we indeed can be the generation to make this change.

Another alternative that Ken makes is to waste less food (which I completely agree with), but the more costly approach, to turn to a plant-based diet. This is another issue that many Americans face because processed-foods are easier to access (as seen through the lack of healthy options at fast food restaurants) and the cost of healthier foods. On average, healthier foods are $1.50 more per day per person. Now, to a good amount of people, this many seem like that much. Yet, for a family that is on the brink of barely affording the food on their table now, they are simply unable to switch.

President Trump is an epitome of people of his time; as Professor Ken addressed in the video, those people choose to ignore the climate crisis and maintain the way they are. And some people actually did not see this problem. In most developed countries, people have really comfortable lives. They can get well-paid jobs and sustain themselves or their families. They have a very comfortable life: they have cars for transportations, houses to live, free education for their children; but their views are limited. Most of those people never care about social issues or even thinking about changing the climate crisis. It seems distant from their lives. There should be more promotions to the older generations on changing the climate.

As it currently stands, our current environmentalist movement shares shocking similarities to that of Ken’s generation. In both, information was widely spread (Diet for a small planet vs the government chair of science comprehensive global warming report), both gained heavy traction ( solar panels in white house vs caps and trade passing the house), and lastly both lost that traction ( removal of solar panels vs caps and trade failing plus removal of most climate activists politicians). I feel as if right now, the current environmentalist movement is reminiscent of that of Ken’s generation. There are very few of us and, for the most part, we are a dedicated fan-base to the planet. Currently, the knowledge that virtually everyone in our generation possesses is awfully close to being squandered as the majority of people, including our generation are not willing to act upon this knowledge.

Sadly, I believe that our generation will do what Ken’s generation knew and failed to do, once it is absolutely necessary and way too late. Historically, every major societal change has been a reactive one sparked by some sort of catalyst. Unfortunately, the planet does not manifest the sort of global event that is devastating enough to wake millions of people into action. Only when the planet is going haywire and we realize that our society is crumbling will we change our ways. I don’t think that we as society, specially with the older generation still having power are able to give up all of these commodities on our own. I think that we will eventually be forced to switch to a plant based diet due to lack of food and we will eventually be forced to switch to renewable due to lack of oil, and so on. I have no doubt in my mind that we will adapt and survive this climate crisis, but I am fearful that all of the progress we have made in the last couple of centuries will be all but gone.

Our nation is a major “contributor” to the climate crisis…At the same time, many other countries did not start their industries that early. They started late, but when they are starting now, the world is already polluted and ruined by our developments. It is our responsibility for the earth, to clean it.

Just today I was in the car with my father driving to Oxnard, where my parents hope to buy a home and resettle from the Central Valley of California. During this hour car ride I spoke to my father about this class and the climate crisis. Through my dad is only 40 years old and has never had the means to seriously contribute to the climate crisis, he still views the problem in the same scope men 20-30 older than him do. This made me realize that my generation really is the last hope against the climate crisis.

Why the climate crisis is a cultural rather than just technological problem (deep dive)

(Note that the below observations and questions were taken from the YouTube comments for the above short video lecture. They have not been paraphrased or altered, though often just part of the comment is reproduced here.)

Clip from the film Urbanized: “Bogota to Copenhagen

One statistic that was eye-opening for me in this lecture was…that even if we buy a car and never use it, we have already reached the maximum amount of emissions we can contribute on a yearly basis, excluding housing, food, and everything else. That is crazy…The current public transportation system in the United States is slow, unorganized, chaotic, and potentially dangerous. However, the benefits we can gain from all using public transportation is massive. The statistic that “buses, subways, and trains can carry an individual 300, 500, and 750 miles per gallon”, respectively, is amazing.

[This comment, which was not “pinned” by Ken, received 26 “likes” and 54 replies, including this one]

A bus can transport one person 350 miles away for only one gallon!

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I felt very similarly when watching this lecture video, and almost ashamed to have thoughtlessly failed to consider what goes into manufacturing a car. And, the saddest part is that I think with people realizing this as well, little change would be evoked. The numbers Ken mentioned actually astonished me. I know that public transportation is significantly more eco-friendly than driving your own car to transport, but I didn’t know it was to this extent. I have been surrounded by people obsessed with the “cool’ car culture, investing so much into cars and even their love for cars prompting them to constantly drive for purposes other than transportation.

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One, like you said there is no future for cars and Ken really did point light to how unsustainable a 5000LB vehicle is for taking one person to one place. There are now 1 billion cars around the world, that’s crazy.

Wow. This was, by far, my favorite lecture video of Ken’s that I have watched. Being from LA, I have a deep relationship with the car. My dad works from home some of the time, but most of the time he has to commute several hours to work (depending on traffic) and several hours back every day (he does drive an electric car, but after this video I know that his electric car is not as helpful as I thought but still more helpful than a gasoline car). Unsurprisingly, he HATES cars and driving. Only one year younger than Ken, he grew up when cars were the coolest. He got his drivers license on his 16th birthday and thought that cars were the epitome of freedom. Now, cars and driving are his greatest burden.

[“Extreme commuting” is a thing in the U.S. and elsewhere. It is commuting, usually by car, more than 90 minutes each way to work. In other words, commuting 3+ hours per workday.)

The explosion of the automobile industry shows how most of our ailments as a society, have been driven by top-down initiatives. Our failure as a species has been largely caused by handfuls of people, corporations, and government entities. As much as we can blame the masses of individuals, it is clear that the majority of environmental and social justice issues were perpetuated by an extremely small minority. We didn’t collectively decide to drive cars and need to own them. They were sold to us by a powerful automobile industry in collusion with government forces. We don’t ask to be flooded with advertising for useless goods and services, but we cannot escape them. We need to stop letting the system blame us individuals for problems that they’ve forced upon us.

[The automobile industry is arguably the largest advertiser in the U.S.]

I had just finished watching the Super Bowl, or rather the Super Bowl commercials, when I decided to watch this video. I was taken aback while watching the Super Bowl when I saw a commercial for the new electric Hummer vehicle that will be be available starting in 2021. I saw several positive reactions to the advertisement of this new vehicle on social media as electric cars have been praised for their solution to the climate crisis…I was aware that Hummer stopped the production of its vehicles due to the excessive emissions the large vehicles had, but never saw them coming back onto the market with the solution to their issue being an electric vehicle.

[O]n a side note there is an interesting episode on public transportation on the show Patriot Act…it explains how attempts to build more public transportation has been combated by the fossil fuel industry and the Koche brothers who want people to continue to use cars.

In my ES 1 class, the professor mentioned that our society has been raised to believe that innovation is an inherent and unquestionable good. Believing that inventions such as the electric cars will be able to bring us out of the climate crisis is flawed because it causes us to focus on the new and shiny objects coming out rather than trying to fix what we have currently, such as infrastructure.

“The average American works about one day per week just to afford a car” is one of the most perplexing and saddest facts I have heard within this lecture…I believe right now we are in a sticky situation where the removal of cars can harm the amount of jobs out there for people to take, especially since we are in the age of Uber and Lyft…The reason as to why I am bringing this up is because of the fact that Uber and Lyft has created a huge business with the taxi service and creating hundreds of new jobs that people, like my own mother, can take. Seeing how my mother has to pay off the car in order to actually work and keep her job, Ken is hitting it close to home with how much we dedicate our time and money just to have a car and be able to work.

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I agree with you that automobiles are less favorable than public transportations. And I also agree that they need to be “less cool”. Calling cabs instead of taking buses is just another form of consumerism. When I hang out with my friends I wouldn’t say “oh let’s take the bus” because that is equivalent to saying: “yeah I am broke”. I do not want to feel embarrassed but that is just a thing in our culture right now. You don’t get to show your success and fortune if you live in a minimalist way. If minimalism becomes a thing like gay marriage people would respect our decisions and we will feel less embarrassed to say “let’s take the bus”.

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This may be a weird analogy or something that may not even be possible but hear me out…If we think of cars as water containers or some object of the like, then a single-use plastic is a lot worse off then a metal or harder plastic container that is reusable. Individuals can reuse a plastic water bottle for only so long before it starts to break and be unusable…How does this relate to cars? Well, my main point is that if we just focus on how to create a car that can run for a lot longer than the average 11 years or even learn how to fix cars so they can run a lifetime then the number of emissions created from creating new cars could be lowered and people that want them could still have their cars.

I really like the main message of Ken’s lecture this week and it’s something that really stuck with me and forced me to think. While public concern over climate change has grown in the 21st Century, there has been little, relatively speaking, change that has occured. Ken really hit a fascinating point that I agree with regarding technology’s role in this. It seems like there is some innate view held by a lot of people that technology alone will save us from a looming climate catastrophe. People point to innovators like Elon Musk and others as our saviors, but it is not right to place the responsibility of saving our planet entirely on those people because that is not enough. We need to start taking an inward look at ourselves and our culture, and we need to address any issues we find as a community.

I first started thinking about this issue when I was in high school. We had a foreign exchange student from Italy who I become close friends with. One of the first questions he asked me was about the size of the roads. Why were they so big and wide? I wondered what he meant, to me we had normal sized roads. As I got to know him more I learned that his family of four owned one vehicle, a 4-dour Fiat, which was only occasionally used for long trips. His mother took the train to work, his father rode a bicycle to work, he skateboarded to school, and his sister walked. In contrast, my family of five had four cars, one for everyone except my brother, who would soon get one after passing a license exam.

I think the future of transportation lies in city planning. So many of our cities are just simply not designed for mass transit. It seems the best opportunity for incorporating public transit into our cities is to include it in the first place. Or if a city is already built, to stop expanding development outward and instead infill cities to make it easier to build public transit.

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I totally agree that city planning is the most important factor in solving the issue that cars pose, and I wonder how we could influence city planners to make public transportation a main focus. Any thoughts, Ken?

[Here are some thoughts: traffic calming, repurposing of roadways to bike and bus lanes, and “Superblocks!”]
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As an international student, I cannot agree more with your friends’ first impression on the United States. I have traveled to numerous countries. I have to say that in comparison to the other countries, America has the widest road for cars. In other countries, they focus more on public transportation. Buses, subway, and high-speed rail are common and convenient. Take Hong Kong as an example…they have multiple kinds of public transportation namely the Mass Transit Railway, taxis, buses, minibusses and tramways. This transportation network can take you anywhere in Hong Kong. In fact, most citizens do not own a car; all they need is an “Octopus Card” which brings them to work, school or home. As most international students are used to this lifestyle, it is hard to adapt to living in the United States where stores are far away from each other.

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When I first came to the U.S., I was jealous of the wide and big road. And I always talked with my family that the U.S. has a really big road, and they never have traffic. But now I realize the big and wide road doesn’t mean it is good. I believe the reason why American people are fascinated with cars is that public transportation is not fully developed yet. No one wants to wait for 40 mins to take the bus, no one wants to rent the public bicycle if they are nowhere to find, and no one wants to use skateboard for a 30 mins ride while car only takes 5.

In the U.S. alone, a quarter of the cars we own would wrap around the entire planet not once, not twice, but thirty one times. THIRTY ONE TIMES! And that is only a quarter of the 5000 lb killing machines we spend almost all of our money on.

While I watched this lecture, I found myself reflecting on when I was a young girl. From a very young age, I fantasized about being able to drive a car of my own. When my parents drove me around, it merely felt like a mode of transportation, being logistically synonymous to a train or bus. However, when I viewed myself driving, I saw it as a symbol of freedom and status, or as Ken’s lecture describes, it is seen as a symbol of being “cool.”

This lecture really put things into perspective. I was, like many, under the impression that owning an electric car such as a Tesla or at least a hybrid meant I would be doing something good for the planet. Although compared to the average fuel-consuming car, a Tesla would be a better alternative, I did not realize that simply owning one and going about your daily life would still exceed the limit of two tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person per year.

Flying, the absolute worst thing that you can do environmentally

(Note that the below observations and questions were taken from the YouTube comments for the above short video lecture. They have not been paraphrased or altered, though often just part of the comment is reproduced here.)

Peter Kalmus, who is a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has this to say about flying:

The plane would have flown anyway. Right? Often, I hear smart people attempt to rationalize their flying by claiming that the plane would have flown without them, so they’re responsible for little or none of the plane’s emissions. This is a fallacy. Instead, there are at least two logical ways to look at the question.

1. We have a group of passengers all flying on the same plane (for simplicity, let’s assume all the seats are identical coach seats). The plane generates some measurable and known quantity of emissions to make the trip. Each passenger chose to take the trip, bought a ticket, and sat on the plane. The passengers’ intentions and actions were equivalent, so we’d best assign the same emissions to each, dividing the plane’s emissions by the number of passengers.

2. The airline has a business algorithm which schedules planes, and (hypothetically) one of the passengers on the plane critically tipped the algorithm to schedule the flight. Some would argue that this passenger should be assigned most of the emissions from the flight, while the others should be assigned only the emissions needed to fly one additional passenger. But the critical passenger remains unknown, so our best option is to take the expected value, which is equivalent to dividing the plane’s emissions by the number of passengers.

This is also a moral issue if universalized.

Ken mentioned there would be a point in the class where we would all be challenged by something he suggested about climate change, and this is mine. It’s not that I don’t understand the disastrous consequences of flying; I do. We are literally putting CO2 directly into the atmosphere every single time a plane takes off. And it’s not that I don’t care because I also really do. All of the ideas Ken recommends for limiting our carbon footprint I have taken into serious consideration and am trying to implement in my daily life. But I am feeling incredibly challenged by the problem of air travel because I love to travel…The desire to travel even influenced my choice in major and future career path. I guess I am struggling to wrap my head around how to live a greener lifestyle while also not giving up the idea of ever seeing the world. With driving and eating meat, there are other viable alternatives…However, there is no equally efficient alternative to flying at the moment. There are other methods, like slow travel, which is better for the environment and pretty cool (if Greta Thunberg can do it, so can we). But these methods of transportation take much much longer than flying and aren’t as readily available to the average person.

This video made me upset. I love traveling and I love flying. I guess you could say it is my guilty pleasure, since I do care about the environment. This lecture upset me because I learned about how flying for about 24 hours leads to about 3 tons of CO2 to be emitted into the atmosphere and according to the paris climate accords would account for about a year and halfs of one’s personal GHG emissions. This means that even if I am extremely environmentally conscious it would be a waste since my flying time would discredit it. I’m also having a hard time understanding how air travel contributes so much to climate change. Is jet fuel that much worse than gasoline for a car? Ken did not address this. Also where is this “3 tons of CO2” contribution coming from? Is this only from fuel used or are there other factors? Does that mean that entire flight produces 450 tons of CO2, assuming that there 150 people on the flight and you travel for 24 hours? I’d like to hear more about this…

There must be some other solution to air travel. A couple of times I’ve seen new stories about electric planes. Ken really doesn’t like trying to solve problems with technology but what if we changed air travel so that planes didn’t pollute as much?

[this comment had 49 replies, including this one]

I completely agree …It’s crazy to me that even if we take many other steps toward improving our carbon footprint, flying can ruin it entirely. I too, however, would like to learn where these numbers are coming from and want to see if newer technology can improve the emissions.

[and this comment]

Coming from Northern California, it is inconvenient for me to take a train for only a weekend. The train ride from Santa Barbara to Sacramento is over twelve hours long, meaning an entire day is gone from sitting on a train…

However, if I take a plane to Sacramento, it is a little over an hour, much like Ken explained in his example with San Francisco. It seems way more practical for me to fly home on a Friday midday than train; that way I would still be able to spend time with family before Friday ended. Similarly, instead of leaving Sunday morning, I would be able to leave Sunday night, giving me an entire extra day at home.

I understand for longer breaks like Winter break it would be reasonable to spend one day travelling home and one day back to Santa Barbara, as I would only lose two days of three weeks. However, going home for three days would mean 2 days on a train. In that case, selfishly, I would much rather take an airplane.

Here is a quote from the article “How Far Can We Get Without Flying?” by Peter Kalmus, who is a climate scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

Hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane. If you fly coach from Los Angeles to Paris and back, you’ve just emitted 3 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, 10 times what an average Kenyan emits in an entire year. Flying first class doubles these numbers.

However, the total climate impact of planes is likely two to three times greater than the impact from the CO2 emissions alone. This is because planes emit mono-nitrogen oxides into the upper troposphere, form contrails, and seed cirrus clouds with aerosols from fuel combustion. These three effects enhance warming in the short term…

I even have a friend who blogged on the importance of bringing reusable water bottles on flights in order to pre-empt the miniature disposable bottles of water the attendants hand out. Although she saved around 0.04 kilograms of CO2 by refusing the disposable bottle, her flight to Asia emitted more than 4,000 kilograms, equivalent to some 100,000 bottles. I suspect that most people simply don’t know the huge impact of their flying—but I also suspect that many of us are addicted to it. We’ve come to see flying as an inalienable right, a benefit of 21st-century living that we take for granted.

[Here was Peter’s climate footprint]

This BEIS chart compares the CO2 emission of various transportation options (BEIS is the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy):

Before coming to UCSB and attending Ken’s Eng 22 and Eng 23 classes, I had seen a TED talk done by him on the subject of air transportation. If I had to take a guess I would say this ranks very highly on his list of things that need to be changed to combat climate change. In his Ted talk he argued that although UCSB is only of the only colleges growing close to releasing net 0 emissions, air travel by UCSB faculty is a major source of the Universities emissions making up 1/3 of total carbon emissions by UCSB.

Flying honestly is something that I have never given much thought towards in the past when it comes to causes of climate change until I began following influencers on instagram. Every other post when you view the pages of these incredibly wealthy people is typically a glamorous image of someone sitting comfortably on a private jet taking yet another luxury trip to a new location only to jet off to somewhere new literally the next week or so.

As someone who wishes to travel in the future, I thought that this video would make me doubt whether or not I deserve to satisfy my desires of wanderlust at the expense of the environment. However, Ken made it less about feeling guilty and more about finding ways to travel with the smallest impact on the environment. My dreams are to go Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland. In fact, earlier today I was thinking about how I could go to each country every summer for four years. However, after watching this video, I am inclined to make my Europe visit a one-summer adventure. I would fly to Switzerland, then take a train to Italy, then a train to Spain, and a ferry to Ireland…

In terms of finding a solution to the issue of flying, I feel as though personal/private jets should be banned, as they are completely unnecessary.

[this comment had 21 replies, including this one]

I think many people, especially those that are our age, can relate to having the desire of traveling the world and experience new places via airplane. However, I think many people are unaware of the utter destruction it brings about the planet and that there are in fact solutions to minimize the impacts to the environment. This is why Ken’s message on bringing about awareness of the harmful nature of air travel is extremely important and should be introduced into more students’ lives.

[and this reply]

This lecture also made me completely reconsider the way I’ve always thought about travel. In my mind, the only alternative to traveling by plane to faraway destinations has been road trips, which I kind of despise. However, the slow travel movement really appeals to me, especially as a way to make a vacation about much more than the destination. Although the trip will take much longer, as Ken mentioned, I believe my memories of the experience will be so much richer than they would be if I was sat in a car or plane for hours on end, bored out of my mind. The opportunity for richer experiences combined with the much smaller environmental impact of slow travel make me extremely excited to incorporate train rides and other forms of transportation into my future travel plans.

[BTW, the importance of travel as a way of experiencing new things, and gaining greater cultural awareness, is relatively new in English-speaking countries, as it arguably first appeared about 400 years ago in Shakespeare’s England.]

The shock on my face when I heard the statistic of “Only 1 in 20 people have been on an airplane” was complete disbelief. It is still hard for me to believe now because it just didn’t seem right to me, yet it is true.

I am a frequent flyer.

I live in the New York area, and am a freshman here at UCSB. I don’t know how many flights per year constitutes frequent flyer status, but due to my home being in one of the furthest possible points without being outside the country, I have an absurdly high number of miles. I generally fly cross-country about six times a year (if I go home three times). That’s about 18,000 miles of aircraft flight. By the time I graduate, I’ll have chalked up at least 72,000 miles in the air…

I also definitely feel conflicted about considering myself an environmentalist. Do I have the right to claim such a thing when my carbon footprint is currently multiple times that of the average person? I’ve stopped eating beef, I buy almost all my clothing secondhand, and as a UCSB student, I obviously bike everywhere. But I find myself wondering: what’s the point? Considering how much I fly, I may as well get a Big Mac, go on a shopping spree, and start a forest fire.

[BTW, “72,000 miles in the air” releases about 18 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is the carbon allowance for 9 years. Similarly, 18,000 miles per year uses the carbon allowance for a little over two years. This comment had 30 replies, including this one]

I do agree that it is very difficult to try to be environmentally friendly when you have very few realistic transportation options besides flying for very far distances….I think it is incredible that you have and other people have taken the initiative to make lifestyle changes to lower your carbon footprint as much as you possibly realistically can in your situation. Think of it this way yes unfortunately you need to fly to get back home, but imagine if you flew and constantly bought new clothes, drove around santa barbara instead of biking and ate beef every day how much more that would increase your carbon footprint. I think people should not be discouraged to be environmentally conscious if they can not change every aspect of their life to lower their carbon footprint, but it is important that people do try to lower it as much as they can realistically, like you mentioned perhaps avoiding things like shopping sprees.

What appealed to me the most from this lecture was the statement, “life is about the journey and not the destination”. I believe the Slow Travel Movement could contribute much more to our life experience, while also reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Although air travel only contributes to two percent of the greenhouse gases, it was surprising to learn about the CO2 released in a single trip.

The two statistics are so hard to believe: flying only accounts for 2.5% of the carbon footprint, and 80% of the flights are made only by the 1% of all people. I always feel like taking a plane as the transportation is a very common practice…My assumption turns out to be very wrong, apparently, and it also made me realized what a bubble I live in and reminded me that there are billions of people not only can’t afford to take a plane but are suffering from poverty.

Although I can agree with the fact that flying is terrible for the environment, flying allows people to go on business trips, visit family, or relax in a different part of the world. I think instead of attacking the general population, we should focus on billionaires and celebrities who use private jets on the daily. Sure, flying is bad for our planet, but there are bigger issues we should be worrying about. That plane is still going to fly no matter if we decide to go on it or not. That plane is still going to produce tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere no matter if we are on it or not. The only solution is if everybody in the world collectively agreed to stop flying but that is pretty silly and impossible.

So is Hiltner suggesting to us that if we want to be environmentally conscious, we should stop flying all together? What about people who have family members in other parts of the world? …There are a lot of people who fly from city to city for work, how are these people expected to travel quickly without the use of a plane. How are people expected to consolidate as much as possible when we live such fast paced lives today? Our schedules don’t allow us to plan out vacations and such so graciously. “Slow travel” only works if you are planning to go somewhere nearby, not overseas. I don’t think it’s very realistic to expect people to write air travel out of their lives. What we can do is focus on making the mass transit system more effective and more attractive. Or a more realistic solution is to improve air travel itself, by reengineering planes to be more environmentally friendly.

[BTW, prior to the previous century, no human being had ever flown in powered aircraft. The jet engine is just 80 years old. Practical jet airliner’s are a little over 60 years old – the era of the “jet-set.” And inexpensive jet flights are about 40 years old. Prior to that, it was impractical for most people to fly.]

When I first watched this video, I was amazed that flying only took up 2% of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, and was even surpassed by aluminum (2.5%) and cement (5%). But, if one considers how many things are made with aluminum and cement it does make sense that their production may outpace flying, and considering that flights consist of only a small fraction of the population, it is quite damaging.

I was also amazed by the fact that 80% of all flights were made by 1% of people and that flying could double or triple your global climate footprint.

To be honest, I can hardly agree with the opinion said by Ken this week. It is an unrealistic idea, which lets people reduce the time of using the airplane to fly to other countries for myself. I agree with the solutions given by Ken, which said that people could use the train or even ride a bicycle if we decide to go to San Francisco from Santa Barbara. However, I think one of the most important conditions to consider using what kind of transportation is “opportunity cost.” If people have a long holiday and prefer to spend a lot of time on the road instead of the final destination, he or she can indeed choose to play while traveling. However, for myself, I prefer to arrive at my destination as fast as possible and do not want to waste time on the road. The time I spend on the road belongs to the “opportunity cost” and needs to be considered carefully. To give an example, if I want to travel to Orlando this spring holiday, I only have ten days, and I prefer to fly to that place. Suddenly, there is a person who told me that the plane would discharge a large amount of carbon dioxide and you should not go there by plane because you need to protect the environment. I will hold the opinion that this person is crazy. If I have a three months holiday and my family members, who have never come to America, will go to Orlando together, I will consider going there by train because it can let my family members view the beautiful landscape on the road.

Different situations should let people have different ideas and consideration of a simple thing. To be honest, I hold the opinion that we should not choose some unreasonable ways, which will actually influence and perplex our life, in order to protect the environment.

Personal action, climate activism, or becoming politically active.

Which matters more?

(Note that the below observations and questions were taken from the YouTube comments for the above short video lecture. They have not been paraphrased or altered, though often just part of the comment is reproduced here.)

The part where Ken mentions bike infrastructure in particular stuck with me because I have experienced both the worst and the best in bike infrastructure. Back in my home town, Morgan Hill (where Specialized is headquartered), the best “bike lane” is just the shoulder of the road, and only recently did the busy downtown area introduce sharrows that allow bikes to use the lane. Even then, sharrows (used everywhere in SB) have actually been shown to be less safe than no bike lane at all! I was fortunate enough to visit Copenhagen last summer, and there, I for once truly felt safe riding a bike on the road. The main difference is that the bike lane is elevated slightly above the cars, but below the sidewalk. Then, parked cars are placed to the left of cyclists. This makes the bike lanes feel way safer than they do in the US. The feeling (and of course the reality) of safety is very important to getting people to ride bikes for their commute…

After watching this lecture, I feel inspired to go beyond being a regular cyclist to being a cycling advocate/activist in the truest sense (I say this knowing there are many ‘cycling advocates’ that are detrimental to cyclists rights on the road). There are many large group rides that take place in cities where cyclists take over and rule the city streets, and now I’m very much inclined to join those as well as regular protests concerning the role bikes can have on the climate.

As for becoming politically active, I encourage everyone to carefully research the local candidates for this election cycle. Bruce Porter’s signs are everywhere, but he will act against the climate goals of the county and has been involved in a phony voter registration scheme called “Rock the Vote SB”. I’m sure there are other local candidates that are similarly questionable, so please study the candidates for a bit before coming to the polls.

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I completely agree! It’s cool that you’ve been to Copenhagen to be able to see just how the bikers feel safety there. When I was in high school, we used to have one specific day a year called “bike to school day” where, just as the name sounds, we would bike to school. There would be organized “bike pool” locations where people who lived in grouped neighborhoods would get together in the morning and bike over. These events were not successful, however, simply because the roads in my hometown were just really not meant for bikers. I think, like Ken mentioned in his example of Copenhagen, we need to mobilize in support of new infrastructure. It was obviously cost a lot of money and will be a lot of time until all the necessary developments are made, but I think this step will be setting us up for success and reduced carbon emissions in the future.

[Good point, but, relatively speaking, it doesn’t cost that much and doesn’t take that long. Look at the example of Bogotá, Columbia.

Seth I totally agree with your comment wholeheartedly. The entire bike culture in the United States is underfunded, underappreciated, and looked down on, but I don’t see why. The bike industry is way better for the environment and less traffic, what’s not to like? My step dad bikes to work everyday (with a helmet on), but I still get worried everyday that something might happen to him on his way to work because there aren’t good bike lanes. This leads to the political part of the climate crisis because we all need to vote on someone who would make bike lanes a necessity. After watching this lecture, I too feel inspired to sell my car and switch to biking. However, it is scary putting your life in the hands of all these reckless drivers on the highway. One day I think with better bike lanes more people will switch to biking to help save the planet!

This video did a good job at making me realize the true value behind my daily actions. What caught my attention was the fact that even if everyone on the planet went vegan, it would not be nearly enough to mitigate the climate crisis. Up until this point in the class all I have thought about changing was the way I eat and how much energy I use throughout the day. However, I know value my right to vote even more knowing that that simple action holds more power than anything else I can do. I always knew that our right to vote holds power, but now I appreciate it even more. It is crazy to think that taking one or two hours to vote can have a bigger impact on our planet’s survival than completely changing the way we live our daily lives. As Ken mentioned many times already, it is important for us to share this knowledge with those around us in order to create action, even if it is at the local level. We must take Copenhagen by example and work together to act upon our knowledge. Yes, the climate crisis is a national issue, but our local actions can have global consequences since personal action, climate activism and political activism are all interconnected. As people like to say, we must be the change we want to see in the world, and this starts with checking ourselves and encouraging others to do the same.

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This video and this class in general have also changed my view on voting for the better. I used to get annoyed by the booths in the Arbor that call you over to register to vote, but now I really appreciate and support them for doing their best to make sure peoples voices are heard. I even registered when they came to our class!

[and this reply]

This statistic caught my attention too. One of the major problems I have with the climate crisis is that in order for it to be suppressed, everyone must contribute on an individual basis to reduce emissions (which is not possible, not everyone will be willing to).

[This is where carbon pricing, which can only be voted into being, comes in.]

I lived in Copenhagen throughout high school, and what Ken mentioned is completely right. EVERYONE I knew got to school either by bike, train, bus, or by a combination of these. Every single road I have ever seen throughout the city had a generously wide bike path on the side, and some roads were explicitly made for bikes. I very seldom had to get somewhere that was more than a 10-minute walk from the nearest bus or train station, but when I did, it was easily fixed by just taking my bike on the train with me and riding it from the station to my destination. Living in sunny, dry, and warm California, there are absolutely no excuses as to why there are so few bike accommodations. Denmark was rainy for about as many days as it is dry in California, and very cold and dark for the majority of the year; yet, there were no excuses to not using your bike. In Denmark we would say that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing”.

I think another factor that helped Denmark switch to more sustainable transportation options were the insane prices of cars and gasoline. A new BMW, for example, could cost you over $430,000 dollars in Copenhagen…Not to mention, parking was extremely scarce and expensive around the city. In comparison, an ungdomskort (student train pass) was approximately $50 (360DKK) per month to travel as much as you wanted on any type of public transportation within the city.

Of course, Denmark is a MUCH smaller (socialist) country than the United States, but they set a great example of how a transportation paradigm shift is 100% feasible. We just need the initiative to set the foundations for this shift.

I have been an electric bike rider for more than a year back in China. I used to ride my e-bike to my high school which is about 5 miles away from my home every day and it took me 15 minutes to get there. The reason why I chose to ride an electric bike instead of taking a taxi or driving is that I do not have to worry about traffic jams at all. Usually the traffic in China around 5 pm. is a nightmare for cars, and sometimes you have to wait for several minutes to drive a single block, which truly is a great method to spend time with your favorite car.

Ken, can you post a video tutorial on how to convert your ordinary bike into an e-bike?

[Here is a video, “Electric bikes: everything you need to know,” from The Verge. Also, the ElectricBikeReview Youtube channel reviews a ton of e-bikes. For bike advocacy, checkout the Streetfilms Youtube channel. BTW, note that in 1980 Steve Jobs called the computer a “bicycle for the mind,”  underscoring that a bike wonderfully multiplies the human body.]

In my opinion, these three steps, going from action to activism to political change, are very repeatable, and thus I believe that they provide a blueprint for how best to change any other environmentally-destructive habits that we have. As Ken noted, personal action certainly must come first, because when you make something a personal habit, such as not eating meat or forgoing a car, it is much easier to advocate for these things as an activist or voter. Activism must come next, because in my opinion this is the most likely way in which we can convince politicians that an issue is important to a large number of people. Once enough people begin to advocate for the change of some environmentally-destructive habit, many politicians looking for their votes or support will undoubtedly act, and that is when big changes can be made. While it would be ideal if politicians simply saw the environmental issues facing us and acted without the personal action and activism of their constituents, in our current system I believe that major political change will likely only happen if it is preceded by action and activism.

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Hey Cole, I agree with your statement that our personal actions and activism will create political change that will benefit our climate and our nation as a whole. The process starts off small, but it builds up over time from local, to state, to eventually governmental. For example, in Copenhagen once more people started taking action and biking to conserve oil reserves, politicians took notice of that, which in turn led to the government taking their own action into helping the people fight for what they believe is the best for the environment. These are the types of things that need to happen in the United States now and quickly, not later and slowly, but now.

I have been waiting for the portion of the class where Ken mentions taking political action. I really like that he has introduced taking political action in such a small and seemingly do-able way: advocating for bikes. This is much less scary and much more realistic than say, trying to overthrow the government…

Using your right to vote and supplementing it with attending a march or other activism activities can make huge differences in our way of life. Make sure you research your candidates, and if you receive literature from someone, make sure that you research the organization behind writing and distributing it. Use your vote wisely, or else it may be used against you.

First off, in response to the “Dear Government Brown” portion of the lecture, I found it ironic that brown denied to ban fracking despite his commitment to migrating the climate crisis. I had to replay that part so many times because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

Moving on, despite knowing how important voting is, this lecture has reinforced my knowledge on the importance of voting. Especially since it only takes about 1-2 hours a year. This is notably one of the most efficient ways to combat climate change that doesn’t take a lot of effort. So VOTE!

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This lecture just reminded me to review my sample ballot and research the candidates and measures that I am going to be voting on. The March 3rd primary is coming up and those we can vote have to be well informed and step out to actually vote. The turnout for voters between the ages of 18-29 was 36% during the 2018 midterm elections. Although that was a large increase from the previous election cycle, it is still far too small. There needs to be a greater turnout in young voters. The only way I can see that happening is by creating a national holiday for elections in order for people to actually go out and vote because many are not able to go out and vote because they have school or work and they are not allowed to take time out of their day in order to go vote.

[Note things can be done to make building easier, or more difficult. And example would be the identification that you present at the time of voting for the first time.]

I’m laughing at the amount of comments mentioning your claim that you face no traffic on your E-bike. All jokes aside, I have never considered the whole E-Bike thing as an option and it honestly sounds like a personal change I could commit to immediately if the need came up.

I really agreed with the primary message of this particular lecture. While I supported the personal lifestyle changes that Ken was proposing in the previous lectures, in the back of my mind I was always thinking that these were not realistic because not everyone would adopt them. So when I heard Ken reiterate that changes in the climate behavior of one individual will not be enough, I realized that the message of the class was larger than just one person.

When Ken started talking about Fracking, I felt that he again made excellent points about what will be necessary to stop extraction in this manner. A single person’s actions will not be enough to stop these large corporations, we need to take collective action and use our voices to make a change. The fact that half of the oil and two-thirds of the gas extracted in the US is from fracking not only demonstrates how reliant our economy is on this practice but also has larger implications for the damage that it causes for our planet as a whole.

I loved the quote Ken used in this video: “don’t lose sight of the gorilla in the room”. I think people can easily be carried away with ideas of combating the climate crisis – for example, by driving electric cars. It seems like a lovely idea to drive a vehicle that doesn’t produce emissions, but in the grand scheme of things it won’t do much. Realistically, we must address the “gorilla” and focus our attention on issues such as hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), which is the largest emitter of methane. That is something that individual action alone cannot influence and requires political action in addition to personal choices to change…

Voting, as insignificant it may seem, really is one of our most powerful tools to combat climate change, as it is the key to influencing problems that individual action cannot change on its own. As Ken said “if you can only do one thing to help mitigate the climate crisis” it is voting, specifically, voting for candidates advocate for sweeping climate change policies and prioritize the interests of the planet.

Although it is encouraging to hear how other countries have made amazing progress towards being more sustainable, it is also pretty hard to come to the realization that the US has done little to help the environment. Copenhagen’s bike system is so inspiring, and being a part of a campus that is so reliant upon bikes makes it seem that a country to commutes short distances by bike is not so unreasonable after all. Biking gets me where I want to be in a short time, burns some calories, and has no emissions.

Ken, I absolutely love that you mention Mark Ruffalo calling out California’s Democratic former Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking in California. Mark Ruffalo is truly a progressive king…I am encouraging my Trump supporting parents to support Bernie Sanders for President. They used to eat all foods, and now have given up red meat, and are considering eventually going fully vegan! Progress!

This lecture was really interesting because it addressed the question that many people always wonder about climate change: will my personal actions really matter in the grand scheme of things? I know that I have asked myself that same question many times before. Even after learning about how the meat industry is a big contributor to global carbon emissions, I still reasoned in my head that it wouldn’t make a difference if I stopped eating meat or not. However, we can see how this mentality is dangerous. Imagine if everyone felt that way; then nothing would ever improve and cultural changes would never take place. Many people would argue that being more actively involved in politics and attending protests and events are more effective than our personal choices and practices, such as choosing to ride a bike instead of driving a car. However, I would argue that these “small” actions are our own personal forms of activism. Being an activist also means living the lifestyle, and our own individual actions coupled with the collective effort of others with the same goal can make a huge impact.

It’s sort of sad that even if everyone on the planet starts to eat vegan, it still won’t be enough to help the Earth. I feel like there is little hope for the individual at this point in time. We just have to do our part, then sit back and hope the world changes for the better. It is surprising that ⅔ of the gas produced by the United States currently, is from fracking. Is this number going up, stationary, or going down? It is hard to imagine that a business that America is making so much money off of would ever completely shut down. It seems like there will always be people who are hungrier for money than the wellbeing of the planet. As I am writing this, I am riding a bus on my way back to school from a weekend in San Luis Obispo, and I am driving past multiple fracking machines. It is always interesting to see the topics you are learning about first hand, negative or positive. It is also helpful that I am learning all of this important information with the elections right around the corner. It will heavily influence my choices in voting this year.

Yes, for sure, personally action may be effective to protect the environment. I can change my diet to plant-based and ride the bicycle instead of car. But as a permanent resident, I am not eligible to vote, which the professor mentions in the video, as an important action about being politically active. That one thing I cannot take action about, sadly.

Pulling it all together: 20 things that each of us can do to save the planet

(Note that the below observations and questions were taken from the YouTube comments for the above short video lecture. They have not been paraphrased or altered, though often just part of the comment is reproduced here.)

Here’s a written list of the solutions:

  1. eat a plant-based diet (vegan or freegan) and limit food waste
  2. be conscious with your food choices (ex. it’s harmful to eat asparagus in the winter)
  3. use contraception
  4. educate boys and girls fairly
  5. walk or bike instead of driving, or use a car minimally
  6. live mindfully (in smaller homes, micro-apartments, or co-housing)
  7. choose slow travel (driving, trains) over air travel
  8. practice some form of minimalism (only buying what you need)
  9. repair, trade, or rent instead of buying new things
  10. buy from companies with environmentally-sound and socially just practices
  11. vote for candidates who advocate for sweeping climate policies
  12. vote for environmental initiatives
  13. tell people about the climate crisis, explain the solutions and the importance of voting
  14. gather and create powerful groups of activists and change-makers
  15. protest and take power away from enemies of the environment
  16. read and educate yourself about skills you can take on
  17. think about why this is so important in order to maintain or revitalize your passion for the cause
  18. use knowledge to share and implement solutions
  19. join with initiatives such as freegan and bicycle collectives to create a larger support system for the climate crisis
  20. become the change you want to see in the world…

I believe that the most important solution is #17. I am a firm believer that if you truly want something, you will do whatever it takes to make it happen. Therefore, if you reflect on why this is so important to you, you revive the desire, concern, passion, and motivation necessary to enact change. As Miley Cyrus once sang, “I put my back into and my heart in it so I did it, yeah, I did it.”

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Thank you for writing out the list, as I was watching the video I had forgotten some of the items and it is super helpful to have them on hand immediately after.

[and this reply]

I don’t know what I love more- YOUR COMMENT or the fact that you quoted a Miley Cyrus song lol. I love it. While I greatly appreciated your written out solutions, I do disagree with you in one sense. That being, the most important part. While you suggest it is finding a passion for your cause, I would argue that it is teaching boys and girls the same.

This solution is far greater than climate change. This idea needs to be spread and promoted everywhere. Girls and boys are not being treated equally in school, in work, and in life. It is completely unfair and if we must start with climate change, than so be it.

[and this comment]

I agree with this comment completely, most people I meet and talk to fully believe and support that the climate crisis is real and needs to be dealt with immediately. However, they do nothing, or make any changes in their lifestyle to support this statement; again, knowledge is not power if not acted upon. Earlier I was speaking to my sister about how I was taking a class about climate change and how it was not a science class but centered around the cultural and social issues that drive it. She then responded “sounds like trash” but then followed with how she thought it was a real issue and really needs to be dealt with, which is why she will be voting for the next election. It did not add up to me how she could vote and support but not fully understand that our societal ideals drive this climate issue.

This was a cool video and I am definitely going to utilize it in preparation for the final exam.

I really REALLY loved this video. While watching it I was reminded of the epic speech a coach gives at the end of a dramatic sports movie just before the team goes out and destroys their rivals. In this case, however, our entire generation is the sports team and our rival is the climate crisis. So much of climate rhetoric centers on what is WRONG and not HOW CAN WE FIX IT. Obviously, this is necessary in order to motivate people to act, however, It is so refreshing to have such an uplifting lecture video in this class. While watching their were so many things that I thought to myself I could easily do and or do more. I want to thank Ken for taking on the daunting challenge of teaching this class. I was shocked as to why this class isn’t more of a big deal around campus, especially after taking it. Every single student at this school should be throughly educated on what climate change is, why it is occurring, and most importantly what can we do about it, however, if i could recommend one resource from this entire course to one of my friends or family, it would be this video. We have a very grand challenge ahead of us, but we are well motivated, we are many, and we can be the generation to stop climate change. After all, what choice do we have?

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This class has definitely impacted me and how I view things. I am more conscious of my own actions, and I try to do what I can in order to help the environment. I must admit, however, that the class is like a bubble. Because while I am changing my ways, I am under the illusion that everyone else must be as well. But that’s not true. Not everyone is taking this class, so not everyone is attempting to change their lives in small ways.

[and this reply]

I completely agree with you that this lecture was a long time coming. As you said, compared to everything else we’ve been watching and reading in this class so far, I believe this one gave me the most hope that we might actually be able to reverse the effects of the climate crisis to a further and better extent than what we’re doing right now. Ever since the start of this class, every pessimistic reading and film has instilled a sense of urgency that I actually think was needed to first get me to pay attention to the issue at hand. Now that I’m properly watching and paying attention, this lecture was successful in motivating me to do even more and try harder to change my habits to contribute to a solution. These feelings arising in me make me wonder if perhaps the layout of the readings and films of this class were actually a quite intentional move made by Ken? He started off with articles full of fear and urgency that made a good job of scaring me as well as a reader. However once we see the magnitude of what we’re facing, Ken then hits us with a load of optimism and videos instructing us on how we as individuals can begin to make an impact. Whether or not this format was intentional, it was – at least in my opinion – very effective in rallying me to this movement and convincing me to make more change. This could not have been a more perfect ending lecture.

The video was a good summary but I felt like it should have been shorter and more to the point. Some people who want to learn about climate change would probably become bored if they had to watch a 24 minute video about the subject…

This is the longest lecture and most informative lecture video so far. It is amazing that Ken refines all materials in ENGL23 into a 24 minutes video.

One of the best phrases I’ve heard regarding the climate crisis is “what if climate change really is a hoax and we create a better planet for no reason.” A better planet is all I envision when I think about a world with the changes that Ken says we need to implement. Caring more about the value of our food, eating plant based nutritious meals, giving women more access to birth control and education, having homes not cluttered by random useless stuff that we don’t really like anyways, buying well made items from people who are being treated with kindness and enjoy their work, and people voting and having meaningful conversations about progress in our communities all sounds pretty good to me! I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to live in a world like this, so why don’t we start living in it! This video, while wrapping up basically everything we’ve learned in this class, definitely made me the most optimistic about the future. By changing the ways that we live according to this video, not only are we creating a more environmentally conscious society, we are creating a better society in general, one that is more of an intertwined community.

I really liked hearing all of the solutions together. Honestly, it sounds long but really doable. If everyone in this class who said they wanted to get involved in activism started working on institutionalizing these kinds of changes statewide or in our communities, we could achieve so much. It needs to become easy to make these changes. For example, if we all spent 1 hour collecting petitions for creating community garden space in our local towns (which already exists in IV!), 800 people could collect 20 petitions an hour, ending up with 16,000 petitions that elected officials would take notice of. Then, that elected official could make it happen and provide an entire town with a more sustainable food option. Of course there’s multiple ways to organize, but grassroots representation is one of them.

When I first joined the class, i thought that the most important thing that could solve the climate crisis was Technology. Through technology we would find great solutions, that would make it economically viable to do the right thing and would force industries to move and adapt and eventually become sustainable. While I am still a big believer in technology, Ken’s class has helped me realize that there are so many more things that are important. The two that stand out is activism, and being and voting.

It saddens me that still to this day for the majority of people the environment is not the major factor in deciding who to vote for, not only that, but many people vote against the most environmentally-friendly candidates for fear that they will introduce changes that will hurt the economy or their jobs. Very soon after enrolling in this class I realized what this was all about. Ken is getting a lot of people in a room, talking to them about the climate crisis and making them read and view more stuff about it. Then in the end when any logical human being would be by his side he tries to make them take part in the movement actively, in whatever way everyone can or is willing to. By making us watch youtube videos about climate change not only does he get to spend more direct time with us, talking about the issues, but also urges the youtube algorithm to keep showing us such videos by other sources. Ken needs to maybe make a better job at trying to associate his videos with other videos about the environment so this can be fully effective…

These 20 items, within 2 comprehensive lists of 10 as separated by the fact that 10 are personal actions and then the other 10 are collective and political action, are a great summary to this course…Taking action is vital and it all starts with one person. With the action of one, more can and will follow…

The items outline what everyone should strive to achieve in developed countries. It is only right that we make these changes seeing as we are the ones who caused all this in the first place. Now is the time to transform our knowledge into power after waiting far too long.

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Let’s make this video go viral! I totally agree that this does a great job of summing up the lessons of this course, and in an uplifting, go-and-do-it kind of way. The list is understandable, not overwhelming and well-divided into two types of actions. I will say I wish there was more emphasis in this course on numbers 3 and 4. When the topic of women’s bodies and education becomes an environmental issue as well, why is there not more of a combined effort to address the issues as connected? After all, half this class is women and everyone, regardless of gender, should know and love at least one woman enough to want decent rights for women (bit of a stretch, I know, but I’m hopeful). This is easily the largest demographic of people to get behind making a collective environmental change.

After #3 and 4, I think that the most underrated yet powerful actions to take is 14: protesting and civil disobedience. Greta Thunberg is proof that peaceful protest can have immense results. But first, people need to get educated enough to get angry. And that’s where I think this video can come in and introduce a wide overview of the issue to the general public.

This lecture I thought was really informative and helpful. For instance I didn’t know or maybe forgot that fracking is now more harmful to the planet than the beef industry. That’s rather unsettling to me. Also by switching to a plant based diet we’d reduce 137 gigatons of CO2 being put into the atmosphere each year. And that switching to electric vehicles would only reduce 10% of that amount of CO2. Furthermore the carbon released by producing cars is an insane amount. Ken says that if we only purchased a new car every 11 years but didn’t drive it once, that would account for our entire CO2 allotment for our lifetimes. That really puts into perspective how much harm we can have on the planet by simply buying something only 5-6 times in our lives.

Ken, I am so glad you made this video! For many of us, this acts as a review which is great but this is a perfect video to share with others that are not in the class and haven’t watched all of your other lectures. I have family and friends that ask me about this class and this would be a great way for me to communicate what I have learned and hopefully help them learn about what they can do. I also think this video provides hope and shows that we can really make these changes and we can have an impact. Overall, I found this lecture to be a big encouragement to continue to fight for change, continue to educate others, continue to educate ourselves, and continue to act and act more. It’s our time to fight for our futures, it doesn’t end when this class ends, this was just the beginning.

This video actually recalls the memory of what I learned in this class. Looking at the statistic Ken gives to, ⅓ of greenhouse gas are due to food production, 85 million unintended pregnancies every year, 25% of climate footprint comes from owning a car, and so on. The things Ken mentioned are actually small and people always ignore them. But combining with those numbers, changing your life habits is significant.

After watching this lecture, I immediately felt the need to send this video to all my family members so that was exactly what I did. I was trying to put my thoughts into words to comment on the video, then I realized that I already put my thoughts into words in the email I sent my extended family. So here is the email. We can be the change by reaching our and informing others.

Hello Family Members!

It is your favorite family member Karly who is very much in the throes of earning a bachelor’s degree at UC Santa Barbara in Biological Sciences. Anyway, I am currently taking a class about the climate crisis and what each of us can do about it.

As part of the younger generation, this issue is very prevalent and important for my future, and if I ever will have children (honestly its not looking to promising with the direction that the climate crisis is moving in) it is very important for their future. We are reaching a point where we all need to take immediate action in-order to not continue to spiral into a place of further despair. We have reached a place where the CO2 in our atmosphere is causing and will continue to cause MAJOR problems; fires that are more destructive, flooding, drought, sea level rise, complete extinction of millions of animals, and so much more.

I am not writing to try to scare all of you. I am writing because often the issue of climate change is turned into a political issue instead of what is actually taking place. The knowledge needs to be spread so that we can act on it. We need to elect the people and officials that are going to fight for the well-being of this planet. Unfortunately, this is hard because the people running that are running our country are in the older generation that won’t have to deal with the real consequences of the climate crisis. We need to vote thinking about all generations!

I attached the link to a video of my professor discussing how we can act to start to turn this issue and take steps towards a healthy planet and a healthy future. Ken Hiltner, is a professor in Environmental Humanities and developed the course I am taking so that anyone has access to the information, this includes readings, videos, and small lectures. The video I attached is pretty much a summary of the whole course however if you are interested in any one step in particular Ken has dedicated a whole section to the issue, and you can find more information on the website The Climate Crisis 101.

I am asking you guys to take 30 minuets out of your day sometime to watch this video, and if you have any questions please reach out to me! There are so many small steps that you can take that make a major change. Voting for the political leaders that sport the environment. Changing your diet in small ways. Taking steps towards living more of a minimalist lifestyle. Biking more. Taking about the issue. Through conversation I have even gotten my parents to stop using plastic produce bags, think about their waste, and switch to a more plant-based diet.

I really appreciate you all taking the time to read this. Please let me know if you have any question or concerns because I would love to discuss it. I love you all dearly.

Knowledge is only power once acted upon.

Change starts with us!

…I know that Ken has worried about the repetition of the same concepts in this class. However, I think this repetition of those basic concepts is rather important. When I first entered this class in English22, when Ken mentioned about wasting food and housing problems for the first time, I didn’t think too much of it. Then, with English23, the re-learn of those basic ideas really changed my life. Now, every time I went to the dining hall, I think about the carbon footprints of what I eat. Every time I took the bus, I think that this is good transportation while considering global warming. Every time I want to buy new things, I think about how long can I use this and Do I really need this? I believe this is a kind of cultural change that Ken once addressed in this class. I am changing because of the repetitive appearance of those ideas. In the future, my friends are going to notice my change and ask me. At that time, I will be able to convey these ideas to them, and they would probably change too. Yes! In this class, Ken has also taught us how to communicate that to your friends. Thus, this class basically has everything that you need if you want to know the situation of climate crisis now and if you want to make a change.

As pointed out by Ken multiple times throughout the course and in this lecture video, technological innovation is not going to be the panacea that cures the plague of the climate crisis. People that are uninformed of the issue often think that they can drastically reduce their carbon footprint by switching over to an electric car, therefore they have fulfilled their part. Educating these types of people should be one of our core focuses if we are to seek a proper solution to the issue. People that are introducing this narrative that climate change is a hoax prey on the uneducated because they are the easiest to pollute. I know many people in my life that are simply unaware of the facts, or only have a partial clue as to what the climate crisis really is, yet we all participate in a society that heavily emits greenhouse gases and pollutes the environment. I myself did not even have anything beyond a vague idea of the issue at hand before coming to UCSB, which is concerning because learning about the issue is not mandatory, despite the serious implications it has for humanity as a whole. We should all try our best to inform the people around us, so that we all can stop being complacent and actually take action.